Masen Davis: “State of the Trans Movement: From the Bay to Beyond” | Talks at Google


EMILY METCALF: So my name
is Emily Metcalf. I’m a member of the Google
privacy team, as well as a member of the Gayglers,
Google’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
employee resource group. And it is my honor today to
invite three speakers from the Transgender Law Center who are
here today, Masen Davis, Ilona Turner, and Nathan Harris. They’re all going to be talking
about the state of the transgender movement. And without any further ado, I
will turn it over to Masen. Thanks so much for coming. MASEN DAVIS: Thank you
so much, Emily. I really appreciate it. [APPLAUSE] MASEN DAVIS: And we are thrilled
to be here today. I have been traveling around
the country a lot recently talking with community members,
activists, and policymakers. And I have been struck by how
excited people are at this moment of history, especially
as we wait for a pretty important Supreme Court
decision or two in the next 10 days. As early as tomorrow morning, we
could hear what happens to the freedom to marry for gay and
lesbian and bisexual and transgender people. We should know what the fate is
for the Defense of Marriage Act and for Proposition 8 in
California definitely within the next 10 days. It’s been really exciting to see
that we’re at this point in history now where
we hopefully will have this freedom. And as I travel around the
country, I’m struck by the number of people who feel that
it is just a matter of time until people can marry who they
love, which is awesome. But I’m also getting this
question, are we done? And that’s one question I
want to pose to you all today, are we done? Because I’m also hearing from
activists and community members in organizations that
are saying, once we have achieved the freedom
to marry, we are done as an LGBT movement. We have achieved equality. Now I’ll tell you, that’s hard
for me to reconcile sometimes. At Transgender Law Center, we
hear from over 2,500 people a year at this point who are
contacting us because they are experiencing some level of
discrimination and bias and violence in school, at the
doctor’s office, at work, and on the street. We know that transgender people
are twice as likely to be unemployed and living
underneath the poverty level. That’s four times as high
when it comes to transgender people of color. We know that transgender people
are much more likely to be homeless and experience
family rejection. In fact, one out of five of us
have had to go and live on the streets at some point
in our lives. And we know that health care
continues to be a real challenge for us. Many of us can’t get a doctor
when we need it the most and have been turned away from
health care facilities. So when I hear this question,
are we done yet, I’m really clear that we are not. But that we are at a time when
we have to redefine what equality means, what freedom
means, what justice means, and to determine whether we’re into
just us as people, or if we’re going to continue
to fight for justice for all of us. So I’m thrilled to be joined by
our legal director, Ilona Turner, from Transgender
Law Center. Ilona leads our very small but
robust legal team, helping people fight for their rights in
California, nationwide, and even occasionally
internationally, as we figure out how to make sure that all of
us have the basic freedoms and supports that we need
to survive and thrive. So we’re going to be talking to
you today about some of the critical issues facing
transgender communities across the country, especially issues
impacting our youth, issues at work, and issues accessing
health care. I’m Masen Davis. I’m the executive director of
Transgender Law Center and thrilled to be joining
Ilona today. And before I turn it over to
her, I want to make sure, too, that we understand what
we’re talking about. Because I assume some of you are
experts and should be up here, and other people may be
newer to transgender issues. The term “transgender”
is used in a lot of different contexts. It means a lot of different
things to different people. So I want to let you know kind
of what we mean when we use the term “transgender.” And at Transgender Law Center,
we define “transgender,” or a transgender person, as anybody
whose gender identity, the way they feel about themselves,
their deep-seated sense of their own gender, or their
gender expression, the way they look to the world, doesn’t
fit the stereotypes associated with their
sex at birth. All of us have a gender marker
put on our birth certificates when we’re first born. Many of us don’t have to think
about it after that’s done. But the truth is, the
expectations about who we will be as adults are largely based
on that first question, is it a boy or a girl? We put so much expectation
about a person based on that answer. And for transgender people and
the people who are contacting us, that gender marker on
their birth certificate doesn’t really reflect who they
are, how they are, or what they want to be
in their lives. So we do a lot of work with
people who experience any kind of challenge because they don’t
fit the narrow gender stereotypes that we typically
associate with men and women in this world. And with that, I want to turn
it over to Ilona, because I know together we’re really
hoping by the end of today, we’ll be able to highlight some
of the critical issues facing transgender people and
also some real opportunities right now to kind of change
the game when it comes to transgender equality in
the United States. Ilona. ILONA TURNER: Thanks, Masen. I’m going to talk about some
of the issues that we hear about a lot relating to
transgender youth, especially in schools. As Masen mentioned, there are
just unacceptably high rates of family rejection, kids being
pushed out of their homes when they are transgender
or gender non-conforming, LGBT
generally. But the numbers in every case
tend to be worse for transgender youth. So homelessness as a result. In schools, kids facing
harassment, violence, and then when kids are dropping out,
and that often leads to dropping out of school. And so that leads to the other
problems that Masen was highlighting of unemployment,
underemployment, poverty, homelessness as an adult,
involvement with the criminal justice system, you name it. And these problems all
build on each other. So to really address that sort
of systematic problem, the most effective way to do so is
really to start changing things with these kids at an
early age, make sure that they’re actually getting the
support that they need and deserve so that we can hopefully
end those cycles. And we actually have been seeing
some really heartening changes in recent years. I think partly as a result of
increased visibility of transgender people and
transgender youth, we’re seeing more and more kids coming
out as transgender and asserting their identity and
their right to be who they are at earlier ages. And I think as a result of the
increased visibility, we’re seeing more and more parents
who, instead of, as they might have done in previous eras,
saying, no way or that’s crazy or let’s get you counseling,
they’re saying, OK, this is a thing. I’ve heard of this. What can I do to help you? I might not understand it, but
you’re my kid, and I love you. So those are some of the most
touching calls that we get. It’s just really amazing
sometimes to hear from these parents and the journeys that
they’ve gone through, people from all different kinds
of backgrounds and conservative, whatever. But when it comes to their kid,
they’re not going to let anybody mess with them. So we worked with one family
recently, I’m just thinking of a family, a mother, a single
mother, actually, in rural Missouri whose child
is transgender. The mother had never heard
of this before. But the kid was working with
a counselor who helped explain it to her. And she was like, OK, well. I mean, if you say so. I love my kid. The child was assigned female
at birth but identifies as a boy, goes by the name Trace. And Trace went to school
earlier this year. He’s nine years old. And in his fourth grade
classroom, just before Thanksgiving this year,
told his classmates that he is a boy. And the school’s response was to
immediately suspend him for three weeks and, when he got
back to school, to put him essentially on lock down in a
special education classroom. He was previously just in a
totally mainstream classroom. And they wouldn’t let him out
even for lunch or recess. He was the only kid in the whole
elementary school who was seen as this kind of danger
for whatever reason. And this mom, again, she’s
not an activist. She probably doesn’t
know any other gay people, queer people. But she knew that she had to
fight for her kid, that this was unacceptable. Because he was getting
incredibly depressed. He told her that he
wanted to die. It was just really, really
traumatizing for him and for their whole family. And so she got in touch with us
at Transgender Law Center. And we were able to successfully
advocate with the school, wrote them a
very nasty letter. And they agreed to lift those
restrictions on him. And he was so much happier. And they were so grateful, just
to be able to reach out and find that there’s somebody
in the country somewhere who understands what they’re going
through and is able to fight for them. So that was really one of the
most meaningful things that I’ve been able to work on. MASEN DAVIS: We got this
wonderful letter, too, and apparently Trace now wants to
move to the Bay Area when he’s older and become a lawyer. So that’s a good sign. ILONA TURNER: Yeah, they sent us
a little photo of him, his class photo, and he’s
wearing camo. And then I was talking to him
afterwards, and he said, did you get the photo? And I said, yeah. And he said, don’t
I look handsome? So that was great. But unfortunately, these calls
keep on coming in. And a lot of the issues that we
see are around transgender students who are struggling at
school because the school is refusing to allow them to live
as who they are, saying that they can’t dress in a way that
matches their gender identity, saying that they can’t– even if they are living
full-time in accordance with their gender identity, and their
parents are on board, and their doctor– this is who they are, and
everybody’s on board, the school may still say nope. You can’t. We’re not going to call you by
the name that matches that. We’re not going to call
you by the pronouns. We’re not going to update
your records. And we’re not going to let you
use the right facilities that match that gender. And we’re seeing, unfortunately,
a lot of really serious consequences of this,
parents who are calling us about their children getting
bladder infections because they won’t use the
restroom all day. We got a call recently from
a parent of a high school student in Ohio who actually
just dropped out of high school because she got a number
of suspensions for using the girl’s restroom after
the school said, you’re not allowed. But she would go in with
all her friends. And again, it just really– if you have a student who’s
living every day in accordance with their gender identity, and
you’re telling them, you can’t use the restroom, or you
can’t be in the gym class that matches who you are, that just
isolates that student in such a serious way. It really subjects them to
stigma and invites harassment, essentially. Because you’re outing
them as different. The school is basically putting
a neon sign above their head that says,
I’m different. Ask me why. And so we’re seeing kids
dropping out of school. We’re seeing kids being
pushed out of school. And so, in part as a result of
all these calls that we were getting, we’re actually working
on a bill this year here in California. We’re sponsoring a bill called
AB 1266 that would actually put it into the state law that
says that schools have to respect the gender identity of
transgender students and allow them to participate in school
activities and use school facilities based on
who they are. So that’s moving its way through
the legislature. MASEN DAVIS: And it’s
a big deal. This is the first time this kind
of bill has been tried anywhere in the United States. It is a new concept
to some people. And yet we are having
transgender youth coming out at younger ages who are just a
seamless part of the school environment, who want to just
be themselves and want to be able to make sure they have
the credits they need to graduate and be able to
get out of school and live their lives. It’s incredibly important to us,
too, because we know from some data that’s been collected
that 50% of transgender youth
have attempted suicide by the age 20. The amount of harassment that
our youth are facing in schools and the impact
of that harassment is life-threatening. So we have every need at this
point to make sure that we’re able to fix these issues, and so
our trans kids are able to be in schools without harassment
and able to graduate like everyone else. ILONA TURNER: Yeah. One last anecdote about
harassment, just if I may. We have another client, a trans
boy high school student from Southern California who
was one of these people who was just fully integrated,
living as a boy in school. Nobody knew that he was
transgender until one of his classmates happened to be in the
office for something else, the school office, and got a
glimpse of his record that had an F on it, Female. She took a picture of that with
her cell phone, blasted it out to the whole school. And so all of a sudden,
everybody knows, and he starts getting harassed persistently
at school. As a result of that, he gets
in a fight with one of the harassers, fistfight at school,
and he gets expelled. So we’re pursuing a complaint
with the State Department of Education on his behalf. But that just demonstrates how
serious this problem is. Harassment, it’s not just
about bullying. It’s not just, oh, you
should toughen up. I mean, this is really leading
to a serious problem of our kids not graduating and all of
the lifelong problems that that can cause. I know that you guys– we’ve
heard that you guys, some of you have been thinking about
youth issues, is that right, in the Gayglers? This is an issue that
you all have been focusing on this year. We’d love to hear some thoughts
from you guys, if you have any, about this issue of
trans youth in particular, strategies that you think might
be helpful, questions about problems that trans youth,
in particular, face. AUDIENCE: You mentioned that
there’s a family that came to you from, I think it was
Missouri or one of the other states, and then Ohio. I’m assuming they do so through
finding your website. And then you mentioned the
other story of harassment intensifying after a picture
being taken by a cellphone. And I think maybe it would be
helpful if you talked about how the internet is enabling or
strengthening the movement. And then we could think about
some of the tools that we’re developing and how that
can maybe support and intensify the work. ILONA TURNER: Sure. MASEN DAVIS: Yeah, that’s
a great question. So the internet has been
absolutely pitiful– pitiful. [LAUGHTER] MASEN DAVIS: It’s so pitiful. It has been so pivotal in the
development of the transgender community and the transgender
movement because for years, transgender people have been
part of America in small towns and all over the country,
all over the world. And many of us have lived
in isolation. We were scared of sharing
our own secret. We didn’t know anybody
like ourselves. A lot of us didn’t meet
anybody until perhaps later in life. And the internet has really
changed that. There are so many resources out
there now for somebody who is exploring their identity,
thinks, wait, maybe this is me when they see a TV
show and wants to reach out for support. It’s enough of a support area
that it’s hard for us, to be honest, sometimes in our legal
cases, because people are used to creating a community and
being very open about what they’re going through. And if we’re litigating a case
of discrimination, the Transgender Law Center finds
that our clients have used the internet for so much of a
support structure that it is hard for them to hold back
in what they post on social media sites. And for us, it’s a concern
because it might be confidential or relate
to their case. But this is where so many trans people are getting support. It’s incredibly critical. And that’s especially true for
our youth, who may be 10 years old in the bootheel
of Missouri. And 20 years ago, they
wouldn’t know a soul for many decades. Now they can go online– their parents can go online– find out information, find
connections to support groups, realize they’re not alone, and
feel empowered to come out much more quickly and readily
than they would and to be themselves at a much younger
age than we saw even 10 years ago. Even five years ago, at
Transgender Law Center, we were not getting the kind of
calls that we get today from parents before each school year
or before summer camp. And a lot of that is because
the internet is the place of support. Now that said, it can also be
the place of harassment. And so to the extent that it
can help, it can also hurt. As youth may have social media
sites that reflected their original gender, and as they
change, they find it hard to get away from that as they go
through their school years. We get a lot of calls as well
from people asking about their privacy because somebody
may have a website. They may have had posts. They may have had a documentary they were a part of. And now with the internet,
there’s very little privacy, actually. It’s very hard for somebody to
get away from their previous identities. ILONA TURNER: You may
have heard of this. MASEN DAVIS: Pardon? ILONA TURNER: You may have
heard of this concept. MASEN DAVIS: And as you know,
more and more information is being added to the internet
all the time. And so we get calls from
people pretty regularly saying, oh my gosh. I realized that there’s this
story I wrote when I was 10 on this website, or this YouTube
video or this comment somebody’s made about me. How do I take this down? And so this is really a great
thing and a challenging thing when it comes to the privacy
and awareness of transgender people. Does that help? AUDIENCE: That was
great, thank you. MASEN DAVIS: And it was great
to connect with you all. Like when somebody really has
something, they’re like, oh my gosh, how do I get this down,
or if somebody’s being harassed online, which happens
a lot on the social media sites, how to address that. And I feel like that’s an area
for us we really have to grapple with, to figure out
what to do when somebody’s identity’s being used
against them online. ILONA TURNER: Right. We got a call recently from
a parent in Sacramento, somewhere in the Central Valley
outside of Sacramento. And it was a mom of a
fifth-grade transgender girl. And it was like, oh no, what’s
this one going to be? Oh god, what’s the school
doing this time? And she said, oh no, I just
wanted to find out how to get a replacement Facebook
password. Because the kid had an old
Facebook account with the old gender and wanted
to substitute. And we were like, OK. But like, what’s going
on at school? What’s the trouble? And she was like, oh no, they’re
super accepting. The school worked with us and
asked the kid when the kid was transitioning how she wanted
to make this work. And she said, I want to have
an assembly, and I want to write a letter and have the
principal read it, and I’ll be standing there. And they did this. And after the principal read the
letter, the whole school, students and teachers, all came
up and hugged the student all together. I know. So we get nice calls also. MASEN DAVIS: So one of the
reasons that youth and education issues are important
to us is that we see the really negative impacts if
somebody’s not able to get a decent education. Even if people are able to do
well in school, we find that transgender people face real
barriers to employment. In fact, in California, we did
some research a few years ago. And we found that transgender
people were twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree
compared to other people in the state of California. Which is awesome, right? There’s a real asset and
resilience in this community. And yet, as I mentioned
earlier, we also found unemployment and poverty
rates that were twice the general average. And salaries between transgender
people who have a bachelor’s degree and
non-transgender people with a bachelor’s degree in the state,
there was about a $30,000 pay differential. So we find almost universal
rates of employment discrimination and harassment
when it comes to transgender people. Thankfully, we’re not harassed
every day walking down the street and at work, or that
would just be absolutely exhausting. Most of us find ways
to deal with that. But nationally, 90% have said
they’ve experienced discrimination at work. California, those rates are a
little bit better, given that we’ve got some good
nondiscrimination laws. But still, 70% of Californians
who are transgender say they have problems at work. So given that very few of us are
independently wealthy, we still need to be able
to take care of ourselves and our families. So work is really critical. And we want to figure out how do
we transition the workplace so that it can be more accepting
of people who are different, whether that
is making sure that sex-segregated jobs are
accessible to transgender people or looking at what are
traditional modes of female and male employment and making
that more open to everybody, not just transgender people. So there’s a lot of work
to be done there. Now it’s rare to get really
blatant discrimination. Oftentimes, the discrimination
and harassment people face is much more subtle. Because I think we are more
sophisticated these days. And to be honest, most people
want to do the right thing. They just don’t know
what that is. But there are times when
we get very blatant discrimination that we have to
act on, and where you can’t just fix it by education
alone. You want to talk a little bit
about one big case that we had last year that made
a big precedent? And then we can talk about
its implications. ILONA TURNER: Sure, sure. So over the last couple years,
we were representing a transgender woman named Mia Macy
who was applying for a job with the federal
government. She had been working as a police
detective in Arizona for 13 years. She was highly trained in
ballistics tracking. And she applied for a civilian
job with a lab of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
Bureau, ATF. And when she was applying
for this job, she was still living as male. She was assigned male at birth,
but coming to realize that she was, in fact, a woman
and starting to make that transition. And so she applied for the job,
and they told her, oh yes, you’re a shoo-in. You’ve already been trained
on our equipment. You’re by far the most qualified
person we could imagine for this job. So she’s going through the– they said, we just have to go
through this paperwork and background check, but
it’s a formality. The job is yours. So she packed up her family,
moved from Arizona to Walnut Creek, where the job was. And shortly before the job was
supposed to start, just a couple weeks, she called up the
lab and said, by the way, I need to tell you I’ve just
been getting my documents updated, driver’s license and
so forth, because I’m transgender, and so I’ll
be coming to work as a woman, as Mia. And they said, oh, OK, and got
back to her just a few days later and said, oh, so sorry. Funding for this position
has been cut. There’s no more job. Although she later found out
that, actually, somebody else had been hired with far
less experience. So we filed a complaint
on her behalf. And that went all the way
up to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, the EEOC, last year. And we got an amazing,
groundbreaking decision from the EEOC saying that transgender
people are protected from discrimination
under federal law, under the existing sex discrimination
law, Title VII. So there’s currently no
federal law that– like we have in California a law
that says that employers can’t discriminate based on
gender identity or gender expression. It uses those words right
there in the law. But on the federal level, we
don’t have that yet, although there’s a bill that’s been
proposed, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA,
to try to do that for both sexual orientation and
gender identity. But the really exciting thing
about this case was that this agency that exists to interpret
the federal employment discrimination laws
said, no, transgender people are protected now, already,
under the existing sex discrimination laws. To discriminate against someone
because they’re transgender is a form of sex
discrimination, flat out. MASEN DAVIS: And if I can
piggyback on that, that’s a big deal. It means now that transgender
people and gender non-conforming people throughout
the United States have legal recourse if they
experience discrimination, as long as they work for
a company that has 15 or more employees. So in the majority of states
that don’t have LGBT workplace protections, folks can go to
their local EEOC office, file a complaint, and have
it investigated. It’s a really important
opportunity for us, a moment for us to educate employers,
too, that they’re on the hook. And that even if you’re in the
deep South or in Missouri, where I am from, now you have
a legal obligation to make sure that transgender people
are able to be treated fairly at work. The other thing that’s neat
about this is that this interpretation, now, is also
being used in other parts of the federal government. So while it was intended to
determine what sex means around employment protections
for Title VII, it’s also being used by groups like the Social
Security Administration as they are looking at their
nondiscrimination ordinance and interpreting sex to include
transgender people. It’s being used by Health and
Human Services as they look at the nondiscrimination provisions
for the Affordable Care Act, where they’re
interpreting sex to include transgender people. It’s also true for schools
in the federal context. So we now went from, because
of this decision, very few federal protections to actually
having a lot more legal recourse for transgender
people when it comes to discrimination impacting
the federal government. That’s a real game-changer
for us. ILONA TURNER: Yeah,
absolutely. Thinking about what you said,
that a lot of people– so there’s a lot of subtle
discrimination against transgender people, right? But there also is a shockingly
high amount still of calls that we’re getting where
employers really just don’t seem to realize that they have
any legal obligations and are still, especially in certain
parts of the country, saying things like, if an employee
comes out as transgender, saying, oh, I just don’t think
that the other employees would be comfortable having
you here. Or we have a client in South
Carolina who was fired after she came out as transgender. She hadn’t started transitioning
yet, but her supervisor let her go just a
couple weeks after she came out and said, I’m sorry. We’re a religious company,
and I just think what you’re doing is wrong. And then she was actually denied
unemployment when she went to claim that after she
was fired because they put that she was fired for cause,
and the cause was “intent to violate the company
dress code.” So yeah, they’re really
willing to be pretty blatant about it. And that makes our job
easier for sure. Because that just– yeah, we just say,
look at that. That’s definitely
discrimination. Sometimes it’s more
subtle, though. We get a lot of calls about
harassment that transgender people are facing on the job. And sometimes it’s subtle, and
sometimes it’s more blatant. A lot of it has to
do with pronouns. Sometimes employers or
co-workers have a hard time remembering what
pronoun to use. And that’s normal within
a certain range. Like people might
make a mistake. But if it happens over and over
again, especially after the person is corrected
or instructed by their supervisor, hey, that’s not
cool, that’s actually really offensive and hurtful to that
person, then it crosses the line into kind of legally
actionable harassment. We just recently settled a case
on behalf of a police officer here in the Bay Area
who went through this. He transitioned to male
a few years back. And his fellow police officers
just could not accept this. And a group of them would just
repeatedly call him by female pronouns, ask him to come out
and pat down female suspects, even though he’s a guy. And they would also out
him to new staff. So even people who had never
worked with him when he was presenting as female would start
calling him by female pronouns and doing the
same harassment. So really problematic, and we
got a nice settlement for him from the department. MASEN DAVIS: Yeah, and making
mistakes occasionally is fine. We all understand that. But what Ilona was talking about
is oftentimes people will say, I just have a block. I can’t accept who you are. I just can’t get this. And that’s when you really
have a problem. But there’s a lot of
unintentional stuff that does happen in the office. So I’m a transgender
man myself. I was born female. I went through a lot of steps
and work and years to be who I am today. And my last job before I was at
the Transgender Law Center was a much larger
organization. And I would come out to my
friends as transgender. I’ve done activism in
the transgender community for 15 years. So it’s not something I hide. But it also wasn’t my work. So it wasn’t the first
thing I told people. It wasn’t on my forehead yet. Now it is. But I had a really well-meaning
friend who I met, one of my coworkers, who I still
remember very vividly. We were in our break room where
all of our mailboxes were and our coffee. And we had just met, a
really nice gay guy. And he’s like, so when did
you have the surgery? So do you have a genital part? And I’m like, I am in my office,
where everybody comes to get their mail,
with the coffee. My genitals should not be a
topic of conversation here. He was really well-meaning. He’s become a real– he was
clueless at the time. And he was trying to connect
with me and show that he was supportive. And he really put a
foot in his mouth. That’s what not to do. He didn’t mean to discriminate
against anybody. He wasn’t trying to
be harassing. But it was definitely
anxiety-provoking as I looked around to see who all was there
and tried to figure out how to respond to that in
our break room at work. So some of this is to be really
thoughtful about, is this a question you would want
somebody to ask you at work? Are you asking about somebody’s
private medical information? Are you asking because you
have a reason to know, or you’re just curious? And generally, try to stay away
from the just curious questions, at least until
you have a more intimate relationship with
that co-worker. Does that makes sense? Now, that’s different than the
time in the same job when I got a call from one of my staff
who had quit a couple weeks beforehand. And she had worked with me
for a couple of years. And she said, Masen, I felt
like I needed to call you because nobody wanted
to tell you. But for the last four years,
you have a staff person, a colleague, who’s taking all of
your new staff and interns out to lunch and telling them that
they’re really working for a woman and making fun of you
every time you turn your back. And I’m sorry nobody told
you that for four years. Nobody wanted to hurt
your feelings. But I thought maybe
you should know. I needed to know. I’m so glad that they called me,
and that they trusted me. But this is somebody I worked
with every day in a relatively small department who was very
actively trying to undermine me with staff. They were not doing that out
of an area of mistake. Maybe he had some curiosity. But this was pretty clearly
somebody who was not happy that they were working with a
transgender person and wanted to make sure all of my
colleagues knew that. Now, that was the one time in
my life I have called up HR and said, we’ve got a problem. I’m going to hope and assume
that folks know better than to do that these days. But if somebody does share that
they’re transgender with you, ask them, is that
information you’d like to have widely shared? Is that private information
about their background that they’re sharing with you, and
to really respect that. It’s oftentimes a little
nerve-wracking for a transgender person to out
themselves for the first time, especially if they tend to just
blend into the woodwork which, to be honest, most
folks don’t think I’m transgender when I first
walk into the room. So to really be aware of that
and go to the, not do unto others as you want them to do to
you, but do unto others as they want to be done to them. So I’m wondering in Google, and
Emily, if you could do an Oprah again just for a second,
where do you see some of the unintentional harassment
happening? Or are there opportunities
for that to happen unintentionally, where a
transgender person can have their toes stepped on without
folks realizing it? Whether that’s through the
systems that you have or interpersonal relationships. And I know I’m asking for folks
to take a little bit of a risk here. But I come from the assumption
that unintentional bias happens all the time for people
who don’t experience the same kind of prejudice or
oppression that some other folks around them do. Anybody willing to
take a risk? Where might it happen? AUDIENCE: I’m actually
an intern. The thing I’ve noticed in the
past two days is there’s very little gender-neutral
bathrooms. MASEN DAVIS: Very few
gender-neutral bathrooms. So as we talked about the
issue of schools, gender-neutral bathrooms
or bathrooms at work are a big deal, too. And not everybody feels
comfortable going into a men’s room or a women’s room. A lot of folks are afraid
they’re going to face more scrutiny. They may have had experiences
with harassment. They may not feel
comfortable with either of them as choices. And we definitely see a
movement to creating gender-neutral bathrooms
in a lot of spaces. In Washington, DC, for example
they passed an ordinance that every single-stall restroom in
Washington has to now be a gender-neutral restroom that
can be accessed by anybody. And that’s good for transgender
people. It’s also good, oftentimes, for
people with disabilities who may need an assistant. It’s good with families
with young kids. There’s a lot of reasons
to embrace gender-neutral bathrooms. And we’re finding more
workplaces that are using that as an option. Now we never say that
transgender people should be forced to use a gender-neutral
restroom, though. Anybody should have access to
that, and folks should be using restrooms that match who
they are and where they’re going to feel most
comfortable. Thank you for sharing that. So that’s one structure in a
lot of companies that most folks don’t think about but
can create kind of an unintentional barrier for
some of the employees. Anything else folks
want to share? AUDIENCE: In Cambridge, one
thing that I [INAUDIBLE] when I first joined Google is that
the Women in Engineering group is very aggressive about trying
to get new engineers who happen to be
female to join. And so there was a
very awkward, I do not want to join. This is the nth time you asked
me, where I was getting kind of [INAUDIBLE]. Well, why don’t you
want to join? That’s not really any
of your business. So it’s unintentional,
and they’re just trying to be nice. So that’s cool that they’re
doing that because in general that is a positive response. But it’s unintentional
weird things. MASEN DAVIS: Thanks
for sharing that. That’s a great example. ILONA TURNER: Right. And I think that just a raised
awareness about the fact that transgender people exist, that
maybe everybody doesn’t identify the way that you might
think that they do based on your scan of them, that can
make a big difference in just being respectful and not pushing
things like that. AUDIENCE: But I think one
really good thing that– I was coming from a university
where people are very aware of this, and there’s a lot
of talk about it. There’s a lot of
introductions. My name is this person, and this
is where I’m from, and anything else. But there’s never, this is my
preferred gender pronoun. And that way people know. Because it is confusing . People don’t know
how to read me. Like which one, right? But if you just have that into
your introduction, people will know, and then they
won’t mess up. MASEN DAVIS: We had a new staff
person start this week. And I checked myself
yesterday, and I said, you know what? Actually, I realize I’ve been
referring to you as he, but I don’t know if that’s the
pronoun you prefer. Can you share what your
preferred gender pronoun is? And he said, wow, thank
you for asking. It is he. But what’s up with
the Bay Area that people don’t ask that? Because he comes
from New York. He’s like, in New York, we’re
all asking that all the time. It’s part of just respect and
not making assumptions. So it is a great practice, too,
especially if you aren’t certain of somebody’s gender. It’s really OK to ask, right? And some of us are uncomfortable
with that. Somehow we’re supposed
to know this, right? But it’s not always possible. ILONA TURNER: Right. And I think your question also
points out that a way to do that that’s even more inclusive
and respectful is to start by sharing your own. If you meet somebody that you’re
not sure, or you’re in a group setting, just to sort
of make it a universal question and information. My name’s Ilona, and my
preferred pronoun is she. And that opens it up and
doesn’t put all of the scrutiny on that transgender
person. Like, oh, I’m assuming that
you’re different. MASEN DAVIS: I appreciate people
who have taken the risk of sharing. I think it’s helpful, and I
would encourage you all to normalize some of that
conversation, too, because unintentional bias happens
everywhere, with so many folks. And to the extent you can kind
of share, hey, this is how this impacts me, I think it will
help Google to continue to be a leader in this area. And I also think, whether it’s
in the Gayglers or other work groups, to talk through what are
ways that Google and other companies can address
unintentional bias that can emerge, whether that’s
interpersonal or structural. So the last thing I want to
talk about in workplace is some of the strategies that
we’re seeing that are really helpful at this point. One is looking at corporate
policy. That’s been really important,
especially as large companies have integrated transgender
issues into corporate policies. It’s been very helpful
for folks. As Ilona said, there’s a real
push towards Title VII and making sure we have federal
workplace protections both through Title VII and
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And we’re seeing more and more
states that are passing strong, comprehensive
nondiscrimination laws in the states as well. That’s all great. And we need to make sure things
are really happening on the ground. So there are some really neat
programs that are evolving across the country right now in
this movement, where we’re seeing homegrown job programs
for transgender people. Here in San Francisco, there’s
the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative and is
also included, they’ve got a program related to it. I think it’s Transcode– is that what it’s called– that’s actually teaching
transgender people how to do coding. We’ve got a lot of folks who
come from the tech world. And to the extent they’ve been
able to help people get a foot into the door in the tech field,
that’s been really awesome, especially given that
many of the tech companies have been the most embracing
of folks who are different, including transgender people. So nice job on that,
I really love it. And I just want to mention
that as we’re being more successful, as we’re seeing more
visibility both with our youth and in the workplace,
and as we’re getting more passage of nondiscrimination
laws, we’re also seeing more backlash. Anybody pay attention
to Arizona? Has anybody seen Arizona
in the news recently? So Arizona had a pretty
interesting bill that they had introduced this year. The city of Phoenix passed a
city nondiscrimination law to protect transgender people from discrimination, which is awesome. In a lot of states where they’re
not ready to pass a state law, city laws have
been really important. Well, a legislator, John
Kavanagh, in Arizona, did not like the fact that there
had been this bill passed in Phoenix. So he introduced his own law for
the state which would make it a criminal penalty for a
transgender person to use a restroom that did not match
the gender marker on their birth certificate. Now, many of us cannot change
the birth certificate gender marker, depending on
where we’re from. All of that’s managed
on the state level. As somebody from Missouri, I
could have them add my new name and gender, but I
can’t have them take away the old one. In some states, you can’t
change it at all. So your birth gender is your
gender, as far as your birth certificate. Well, Kavanagh’s bill would have
put somebody in jail for six months for using a restroom
if it didn’t match their birth certificate
gender marker. Thankfully, there
was an uproar. And this actually passed
the first committee. This was a bill that really
had some legs in Arizona. It was very similar to the
anti-immigrant bill that they have there where, again, another
“show your papers” bill in Arizona. Thankfully, folks were able to
rally together and to make it clear that this would
be ridiculous. The logic of that bill would
say that I have to use the women’s room in Arizona, and
I’ll tell you, nobody really wants that. And we were able to stop that. But what happened with Arizona
and Kavanagh is a good symptom of an issue we’re going
to see arise. And it’s true for almost every
civil rights and social justice movement in this country
that the more you progress, and the more you
have success, the more backlash you will see. And we are starting to see this
as we are seeing more harassment of people who
are out as transgender. We’re seeing more
anti-transgender bills that are being proposed. And many of those have to do
with restrooms because, to be honest, the United
States folks, we do not like bathrooms. We do not like public
restrooms. We think they smell. We want to avoid them
as much as we can. It doesn’t matter if you’re
a woman or a man. It’s just not a popular place. And anti-transgender people
realize this and have tried to pair up nondiscrimination laws
with restroom issues in a way that’s been really damaging
for a lot of folks. So I do urge you to keep
an eye on this. And with Arizona, he finally
realized this was not going to work and pulled the bill back. But this is really the next
frontier that we’re going to have to continue to fight as the
success that we see also has an equal and opposite
reaction to it. Do you want to talk about
health care quickly? ILONA TURNER: Yeah. So just in a couple minutes,
the last issue we wanted to talk about was health care. This is a major issue for a
lot of transgender people, just simply being able to access
health care at all, in some cases, being turned away,
being denied health insurance because they are transgender,
which is viewed as a pre-existing condition,
transgender people being denied sex-specific care that
they need just because they may have changed their
gender marker with the insurance company. So we see transgender men being
denied pap smears that they need, transgender women
denied prostate exams, and some people being denied care
for a whole range of bizarre sounding reasons. We had a client who was denied
treatment for a broken bone because the insurance company
said, oh, that must be related to the hormones that
you’re taking. It must have weakened your
bones, and so we’re not going to cover it. And this is related to the fact
that a large percentage, the majority of health insurance
plans in this country right now, have explicit
exclusions written into them for health care that
transgender people need. MASEN DAVIS: Thankfully,
this is changing. There is a surge of activism
to address this issue, especially as the Affordable
Care Act is about to be implemented throughout
the United States. And there now have been four
states and the District of Columbia that have now said that
it is no longer legal in those states to have
transgender-specific exclusions in health
care policies. Thankfully, California is
one of those states. So this is a real sea change
where we now have a good percentage of states that are
now starting to look at this issue as they’re doing
implementation around the Affordable Care Act and looking
at opportunities to make sure that all people are
actually able to have the coverage they need, including
transgender people. There have been some real
interesting focus groups around the country to learn
about what people know about the Affordable Care Act. And what we’ve heard is
transgender people are among the most vocal because we have
so much to gain or to lose with what’s happening. So for folks who are interested
in getting involved in that or learning more,
please come talk to us afterwards. We’re tight on time, so I’m
going to make sure we give our last few minutes for any
questions folks may have. ILONA TURNER: I just want to
add one last thing on the health care front, which is that
we’re also seeing a lot of action from employers,
including Google was one of the pioneers in this area. And it’s so helpful when that
sort of thing happens, especially from such a prominent
company that can set an example for other companies
to say, this isn’t impossible. You can negotiate with your
health insurance company. You can make this happen. And it makes such a difference
in the lives of trans employees, makes people more
productive, happier. It just should be a no-brainer,
but it’s really helpful to have this
kind of example. MASEN DAVIS: So I hope you all
will join me in realizing that we’re not done, even as we get
hopefully a great ruling from the Supreme Court in
the next 10 days. We have a lot more work to do
around school and our youth, around jobs, around health
care, around a myriad of issues impacting
our community. And as we get into the last
five minutes of questions, we’d love to hear any clarifying
questions you all may have here and also any ideas
you have of how do we spread the word to make sure
people realize that we’re not done, that we have not ended
at all the long march to equality, but we have a
lot more work to do. And if you have thoughts
about that, we would love to hear it. We’re starting some social media
campaigns at this point. One is called More Than
Marriage, #morethanmarriage, really elevating a lot of the
issues that have impacted especially more marginalized
members of the LGBT community, making sure people are talking
about the need still for education and health care and
immigration and so many issues that have not had the same kind
of media presence but continue to be really critical
for our communities. So with that, I’ll open up
for questions and ideas. EMILY METCALF: As you might
know, Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information
and make it universally accessible. You mentioned at the beginning
of your talk that a lot of folks are finding out about
transgender issues via the internet at a younger
and younger age. What might Google or other tech
companies be able to do to help the younger generation
find out what they need to know to transition earlier
in their lives? MASEN DAVIS: That’s
a great question. I think there are a lot
of little things. There’s probably a bigger one,
too, that I want some more time to think about. But some things that we’ve
talked about in our office. You all have– I’m sorry, I apologize, I
don’t know what you call them– but the images that show
up when you first do the search engine. When you first go to Google– AUDIENCE: Doodles. MASEN DAVIS: What do
you call them? Your doodles, yes. I love the doodles. I just didn’t know what
they were called. I apologize. But we’ve talked about how
powerful it would be to have an LGBT or especially a T doodle
at some point, maybe on some sort of day that we
could commemorate. That would open up this issue
to so many folks. How do we make sure that the
organizations that are doing really interesting work, and
especially those working with youth, that provide more public
education, making sure that they’re able to be high
up on the search engine results, so people find that? I think there’s been a
lot of improvement. It used to be if you searched
for “transgender,” you would not get advocacy groups. I’ll just say that. You got a lot of
adult content. And that has already changed
significantly over the years– thank you– so that people can now get
some basic information. But we have a lot of different
sites out there that have pieces of information. We have yet to really have a
lot of that in one place that’s easily accessible,
especially for the kids. So it might be interesting to
think through how do we make sure that that is much easier
to find for folks. And then the last thing I want
to reiterate earlier, I think the harassment issue is real. So what can we do to address
when people are being outed online, if they’re bring
harassed in the social media sites, how do we address that? We feel a lot of urgency
around that right now. AUDIENCE: Thank you, guys. Before the talk, you were
chatting about issues like symbology and branding,
for example, for Transgender Law Center. Speaking more broadly, how do
we develop iconography or representatives, heroes
of the trans movement. What do we have to rally behind,
what people, what images, what symbology? We don’t have as much as the
broader LGBT movement yet. Are we moving in
that direction? Do we have poster children,
heroes? What do we have? MASEN DAVIS: Do you have
an answer back there? AUDIENCE: There’s an inherent
tension for organizations like TLC– and I think you and I have
had a version of this conversation– in terms of how bold its logo is
in terms of they’re sending letters to people. And having an envelope that
necessarily outs the people on the other end is problematic. On the other hand, I personally
feel really strongly we need something that
is the equivalent of the HRC equals sign. We need something that
absolutely says, in unambiguous terms, “trans,”
that unambiguously says “proud.” And there are other
organizations. There are other
non-organizations. A woman named Jen Richards in
Chicago has a project called We Happy Trans, which is all
about promoting positive images of trans people
post-transition. And for this exact purpose, she
ran an event called Trans 100, which Masen was one
of the people who was highlighted, and identifying
people who are by action, by visibility, by impact, heroes,
significant people in the trans movement. But yeah, we need something
that’s like the HRC equals sign that isn’t just TLC. MASEN DAVIS: I totally
agree with that. The Trans 100 I think
was great. They did an event in Chicago,
did social media and print media around 100 people who’ve
been active and made a difference in the
trans movement. That was a real watershed, in
part because most of the media around transgender people has
been– like the Day of Remembrance is our best known
day, which commemorates all the people we’ve lost to
anti-transgender violence. We’ve had a lot of things where
we commemorate people who have died, but usually
through violence or HIV and AIDS, which disproportionately
impacts our community. There have been very few
campaigns to really get out the good stories. We have folks who have
contributed so much in so many different fields. Many people don’t know it. And there are a lot of reasons
for that, but I do think we’re ready to be much more visible,
much more powerful as a people and as a movement. We have yet to find that
equals sign moment. There is a transgender symbol,
but it’s a little clunky, in my opinion. We’re not quite there yet. But I think we’re
getting there. And if any of you are great
strategists and graphic designers, let’s work together
to create that. But it is time. And in many ways, we’re very
much like where the gay and lesbian movement was 20 or 30
years ago, where the media representations were as victims
or killers or the joke of the sitcom. And we’re ready to move. We’re ready to go and
have our moment. We have a lot of needs. We’ve got a lot of momentum. And I do think that this is a
moment for us to really make this a reality. EMILY METCALF: What I want to
make sure to do before we end the talk is to announce that
for those of you who aren’t aware, Go Transgender has a
lot of information about resources on transitioning and
transgender issues at Google, including a list of
gender-neutral bathrooms in various buildings. So that’s a really
great resource. MASEN DAVIS: And can I also
just say, thank you all. Google has been a leader
in policies supporting transgender people
here, on the job. And you’ve had great
health care. I hope it continues to
be great health care. I see nods. That’s awesome. I’m so grateful for you all and
your leadership in this, and also your support of
Transgender Law Center and of this movement. It’s made a big difference to
us, and we look forward to continuing to partner
together. Thanks. EMILY METCALF: Thanks so much. And please, everybody give
a round of applause for– [APPLAUSE]




Comments
  1. Really? What, did you sit there and search out this video, just to make nasty comments? If it's really so "disgusting" why did you even click on the video in the first place?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *